Seven Vie For Central Fulton School Board
With only five seats up for grabs on the Central Fulton School Board, seven candidates are working diligently this spring to get their names and goals out to the public in hopes of securing the nomination of either the Republican or Democratic Party, or, if they're truly lucky both during next month's May 19 municipal primary election.
Of the total seven candidates found on the primary election ballot, all seven have cross-filed on both tickets, seeking either a four-year or two-year term of office.
Each party will be responsible for nominating four of the following four-year candidates this spring: Dr. Brent Carlson, Eric S. Hollinshead, Ryan B. Richards, Matt Wakefield and Hollie L. Garlock. In addition, candidates Erika D. Hendershot and Christopher R. Hann are seeking a two-year term. In their race, each party will nominate a total of two candidates.
Dr. Brent Carlson (D/R - 4 yr. term)
With three children having graduated from McConnellsburg and one currently working her way up through the high school ranks, Dr. Brent Carlson knows a little about the Central Fulton School District and what it takes for students to succeed after high school. A local veterinarian, whose business is conveniently located adjacent to his 1024 Lincoln Way East, McConnellsburg, home, Dr. Carlson is the lone incumbent found on the May 19 ballot.
In the process of completing his first four-year term of office, Dr. Carlson told the "News" his effective communication skills are definitely one quality that have proven to be an asset to the board. "I am not afraid to ask questions," added Dr. Carlson, who noted down the road he would like to see districts receive more state funding while also seeing an end to unfunded mandates that place the lions share of the financial burden on tax payers.
"I work with eight other dedicated and hardworking board members. I think the community should be very proud of the district's extracurricular as well as academic accomplishments. These things happen because people work together," Dr. Carlson said. Carlson concluded the number one role of a board member is to support the administration and work hand-inhand with them to provide a quality education for the kids.
In February 2008 when an unexpected vacancy on the Central Fulton School Board arose due to the resignation of Jeff Culler, Hollie L. Garlock was one of several community members to submit a letter of interest in hopes of being named the school board's newest director. Even though she and other hopefuls were not chosen, Garlock has held on to her dreams of serving the community as well as her children.
"Student education and safety are my main concerns, and those are qualities I will always have and always put first," said Garlock, who, along with her husband, is co-owner of Daljcon LLC Steel Erectors in McConnellsburg.
With 14 years of business knowledge and just as many years being a mom to four children, Marleigh, Dalton, Blake and Donovan, the McConnellsburg resident stated she always remains open to both sides of a story to make an informed and firm decision.
As an example to her openness, Garlock said she sees both sides to the issue proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell in recent months to reduce the number of school districts across the commonwealth through consolidation. Garlock indicated that education may suffer due to larger classes and less one-on-one instruction. In addition, those students involved in extracurricular activities may be left behind due to a smaller number of available playing slots. However, possible taxpayer and state money could be saved through such an action, she countered.
"Whether the situation pertains to our students, faculty, taxpayers or district issues, I will make the best decision for our students and all involved," she said. " ... I want to be involved in the decisions that affect our children's future, no matter how big or how small. I feel it is pertinent that we have a group of people making these decisions that are not only knowledgeable and caring but that have regular interaction with our children, parents, staff and taxpayers."
Eric S. Hollinshead (D/R - 4 yr. term)
Like Garlock, Eric S. Hollinshead of Harrisonville also became interested in serving on his local school board in 2008 and after a line of questioning began the official election process of circulating nominating petitions and going door-to-door earlier this year.
Hollinshead, an avid enthusiast of the outdoors and father of two teenage children, told the "News" his strong ethics would be critical to his success as a school board director. Among those ethics Hollinshead holds dear to his heart are honesty, sound judgment, dependability, integrity and loyalty.
"My children are in school, and I have always been involved in their education. I believe I would be an asset to the many residents with kids in the district. I want everyone's voice to count, and I can do that," added Hollinshead, who is employed at the Staples distribution center.
Hollinshead related that the number-one role of a board member should be listening to issues and proposals and helping pass or initiate changes based on all the information presented. "We need to keep the parents, children and teachers in mind when making decisions," said Hollinshead.
Hollinshead stated he is opposed to the proposal for consolidation of school districts and made reference to teacher/ student ratios as well as possible transportation expenditures and vacant and expanded facilities. He concluded that while the proposed consolidation was launched with the notion that money could be saved through the elimination of administrative positions, there would be no guarantee that jobs would be lost, but additional jobs could be created.
Ryan B. Richards (D/R - 4 yr. term)
When his eldest daughter, Lexi, started school approximately four years ago, Ryan B. Richards again found himself immersed in school life. Years later, the 1995 graduate of McConellsburg High School now has two daughters, ages 9 and 7, enrolled at McConnellsburg Elementary.
His active interest in serving the district and community as a whole has become so overwhelming, he decided to try his hand in politics this spring by vying for a four-year seat on the school's board of directors. The number-one role of any board member, according to Richards, is to best represent the needs of the community for the students and the taxpayers.
Co-owner of Richards Dairy LLP for nine years, Richards stated his wide range of traits would enable him to contribute to the success of the school district.
"It was my desire for our students to have access to the best primary and secondary education possible that prompted me to run for school board ... I understand the importance of conservative budgeting but at the same time equipping our school with the best tools available for educating our children," he said. "I would like to see all necessary changes made that would enhance the education of our students while still remaining fiscally responsible."
Looking at the governor's proposal on school consolidation, Richards noted at first the idea may seem fiscally responsible. However, he stated it could have an "eroding effect" on children that now receive education in small schools and are in turn forced into a larger system.
"Large public school districts have many different problems due to their scale," Richards stated. "The cost per student could be less but at what cost to their education?"
Matt Wakefield (D/R - 4 yr. term)
Previously interested in filling the vacant seat held by former board member Jeff Culler in early 2008, political newcomer Matt Wakefield, who is far from being a newcomer at the Central Fulton School District, is hoping to bring a new perspective and possibly some fresh ideas to the district he graduated from in 1991.
A resident of McConnellsburg with his wife, Robin, and young sons Elliott and Jasper, Wakefield has been employed at JLG Industries since 1993 and currently serves as the director of technology and infrastructure services.
"I have extensive experience managing people, leading largescale projects and developing and working within a budget," Wakefield told the "News." "I feel there is a need for continual fresh ideas on the board, and I hope that my experiences may allow me to contribute new ideas and leadership to the board."
If elected, Wakefield said he would be interested in seeing the district move toward a "merit pay basis for employees as well as greater transparency in the district's workings" while continuing to stay within budgetary means and providing the best education possible for students, as is the role of any board.
Dealing with finance and figures in his daily employment, Wakefield stated until there is more detail released on Gov. Rendell's plans for consolidation, he could not support it. "While it has been presented as a cost-saving measure, there has not yet been enough detail released to determine if it would in fact save money and what impact it would have on the quality of services provided," he concluded.
Christopher R. Hann (D/R - 2 yr. term)
When he first became a dad eight years ago, Christopher R. Hann of McConnellsburg knew a stint on the local school board should be something he should avidly pursue down the road. With the time now upon him, Hann is one of two area candidates who have chosen to crossfile for a two-year term of office.
A graduate of Forbes Road High School, the now father of three daughters and one son ranging in age from 8 to 1-1/2, is vice president of George S. Hann & Son construction company. "In the fall, I will have three of my children in school. Now more than ever, I feel the need to be involved," said Hann. "I have never shied away from leadership roles. I excel at managing time and a budget."
Hann stated in light of difficult times facing the entire nation, he would look forward as a board member to implementing any necessary changes to aid the district's teachers and staff in continuing to provide the student body with a "priceless education." Furthermore, with so many public schools facing financial difficulties, Hann indicated he would support a decision to consolidate the school district if it meant the continuance of a quality education.
Erika D. Hendershot (D/R - 2 yr. term)
Deeming herself as fair, honest, caring and a good listener, McConnellsburg resident Erika D. Hendershot believes those three characteristics or qualities would serve her well as a school board director with the Central Fulton School District.
A 1995 graduate of McConnellsburg, Hendershot told the "News" she was prompted to run for office now that she has three children of her own attending McConnellsburg Elementary and, if elected, hopes to have a positive influence on the decision making process at the school. Among those decisions would be finding ways to address the need for additional resources for gifted and special needs students.
"I have grown the desire to want to be aware of school board issues," said Hendershot, who has been employed with Keystone Family Practice for 12 years and in her spare time serves as an assistant coach with the Mercersburg Rockets cheerleading squad.
"Our number-one priority should remain the children and their quality of education," Hendershot said, who noted the educational process locally may be threatened if schools were consolidated. Hendershot noted consolidation would also affect issues such as transportation.
"The children need to be what we consider first. However, I do believe that there could be some good aspects to combining some schools," she concluded.